Canara Bank files case with CBI against Deccan Chronicle

Unable to trace funds amounting to over Rs 4,300 crore lent by 24 banks and financial institutions to T Venkattram Reddy’s Deccan Chronicle Holdings

Written by ENS Economic Bureau | Mumbai | Published:March 15, 2013 1:27 am

Unable to trace funds amounting to over Rs 4,300 crore lent by 24 banks and financial institutions to T Venkattram Reddy’s Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd (DCHL),Canara Bank is learnt to have filed a case alleging fraud with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in New Delhi on Wednesday against the media house.

The funds were lent to DCHL over a period spanning 15 months between March 2011 and June 2012.

A top official at Canara Bank,which has an exposure amounting to Rs 400 crore with DCHL,confirmed that the bank has filed a case of fraud against DCHL as it fears that the entire money borrowed from various banks individually has been diverted.

“This is all public money. The Deloitte investigation (Canara Bank had roped in Deloitte to carry out the investigation about the funds) could not trace the money and therefore we feel that the total money could have been siphoned off,” said the official,who did not wish to be named.

“We are simultaneously informing RBI also about this fraud and have approached the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) for recovery of our dues through their assets.” Calls,e-mail and messages sent to Reddy on Wednesday went unanswered.

DCHL had allegedly entered into multiple banking arrangements without disclosing the extent of its indebtedness to others and used the financial information as of March 2011 to take a total debt of over Rs 4,300 crore.

It was only after DCHL defaulted on the short-term non-convertible debentures on June 26,2012 that other banks,which had exposure to DCHL,talked about their exposure to the group.

It took another couple of months before these banks sat together to figure out that the total exposure by them was close to around Rs 5,000 crore.

Worried over their exposure,a group of lenders wrote a letter to then corporate affairs minister Veerappa Moily,alleging that in a period of 15 months the promoters have reduced the company from a position of net cash of Rs 390 crore in March 2011,to a net debt of over Rs 4,300 crore.

The letter also alleged that with no significant addition to assets by the company,to squander Rs 5,000 crore of a public listed company,pointed to “gross mismanagement with wrong and dishonourable intentions”.

While the finance ministry had appointed a two-member panel to conduct the probe,Canara Bank had roped in Deloitte to carry out the investigation. The official said that the audit firm could not trace the money and hence they resorting to lodging the case with the CBI.

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